Swing Time by Zadie Smith - review by Houman Barekat

Houman Barekat

When the Music Stops

Swing Time

By

Hamish Hamilton 453pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

Zadie Smith’s fifth novel tells the story of two close friends, brown-skinned girls from northwest London who share an obsession with dance. The pair grow apart: Tracey just about makes it to the West End stage while the narrator-protagonist lands a job as a PA to a millionaire pop star named Aimee, who is a cross between Madonna and Miley Cyrus. When Aimee embarks on a philanthropic venture in an unnamed West African republic, Smith’s protagonist – already quite politically conscious thanks to the efforts of her mother, a left-wing autodidact who works her way up from local activist to Member of Parliament – witnesses at first hand the iniquities of globalisation.

The narrator’s friendship with Tracey goes awry – the kind of atrophying, wrought by mutual envy and resentment, that does for many a ‘best-friend’ relationship in the transition to adulthood – but her personal travails are merely a conduit for a broader sociopolitical panorama. Swing Time is set in

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